Saturday, July 6, 2013

Bravo Kohli

This was a battle between two new captains - Virat Kohli for India and Dwayne Bravo for the West Indies. Everything had gone right for the Windies in the triseries so far, and it had all gone wrong for the Indians after their Champions Trophy triumph.

The West Indies had won both their games and were as good as being in the finals already. India had contrived to lose to the Windies from a winning position, then got thumped by a margin of 161 runs to hand Sri Lanka a bonus point.

A change of venue - from Kingston, Jamaica to Port of Spain, Trinidad - brought a reversal of fortunes. It was India's turn to win with a bonus point, and the competition is wide open again. If the Windies lose their next game too to Sri Lanka, who also have a bonus point like India, and India then beat Lanka, it will be an India-Lanka final. And if the Windies win on Sunday, the last match between India and Sri Lanka will be a knockout. Nice.

Port of Spain has traditionally been a happy hunting ground for the Indians because the wickets there are slower and helpful to spinners. But that wasn't how India came good this time. They just played great cricket and were perhaps fortunate to lose the toss.

We can't be sure what Virat Kohli would have done had he won the toss, but Dwayne Bravo had no hesitation in putting the Indians in on a wicket with a thick coat of grass, presumably prepared to give the West Indies home advantage. This backfired when the Indian openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma put on a century partnership, giving the team the sort of start they consistently got in the Champions Trophy on English wickets. The stage was thus set for Virat Kohli to play a captain's knock, hammering a century in eighty odd balls after taking his time to get set at the wicket.

The West Indies didn't help their cause by overdoing the short stuff, which this new Indian side is quite adept at pulling and slicing for runs. Their captain was guilty of this himself, and compounded matters by coming back to bowl at the death when Darren Sammy, who had bowled economically, might have been a better option. From 221 for 6, India ended up with 311.

Then the skies became overcast and it started drizzling when it was the West Indies' turn to bat. This was perfect for Bhuvneshwar Kumar who gobbled up the dangerous Chris Gayle and anchorman Darren Bravo with balls that kicked and seamed away. A rain break only made things worse for the Windies as the Indian seamers had a field day.

Unlike Bravo, who came a cropper after stand-in skipper Kieron Pollard had put it across the Indians in the previous game, Virat Kohli came into his own with both bat and thinking cap. Dropping Bhuvneshwar Kumar and dropping himself one slot lower in the batting order were mistakes that Kohli corrected after a chastising loss to Sri Lanka. If you can learn from your mistakes, and have the humility to rectify them quickly, you are going to succeed as a captain. Ask Dhoni.

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